Structural Surveys

Inspects the structural integrity of a property

Structural surveys perform an essential role in determining the structural condition of any type of UK property. Whether before purchase, renovation or conversion.

A structural survey is a type of house survey, which is only concerned with examining the structural integrity of a property.

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What is a Structural Survey?

A full structural survey is a comprehensive structural report. It involves structural engineers who will inspect the interior, exterior, visible and accessible parts of a building to assess for any potential issues or defects.

The results of a structural survey are set out in a comprehensive structural report. Any serious problems which will require repairs or maintenance will be identified and expert advice given.

Difference between a structural survey and a building survey

A full and in depth structural survey is always advised to be carried out when purchasing:

  • Period properties

  • Heritage properties

  • Listed buildings

  • Older properties

  • Homes with unusual layouts

– or when planning a major renovation.

However, the type of house survey usually considered is either a building survey or a structural surveyMany newer properties may only require a Condition Report or a Home Buyer Report which involves a visual inspection of all major indoor and outdoor features.

Depending on your particular needs, it’s important to know the difference between the two types of house surveys.

Condition Report

This is known as a Level One Survey, and is limited to a visual inspection of a property’s condition, including any risks, potential legal issues and urgent defects only. It’s normally applied to ‘standard’ properties and relatively new homes in good condition.

Home Buyer Report

Also referred to as a Home Condition Survey, is a Level Two Survey, and also applied to standard properties in reasonable condition.

It will contain all the assessments of a Condition Report but also includes any defects that might affect the property with advice on repairs and maintenance.

The Home Buyer Report can also include a market valuation, if required.

Building survey

Level 2 Survey

Consists of – an inspection of all visible, accessible areas, including the general condition of walls, cellars, floors, windows, doors, roofs, garages and more.

A full building survey – known as a Level 2 survey – can be carried out by a RICS chartered surveyor or a structural engineer.

RICS chartered surveyor

Detailed RICS building surveys by RICS registered surveyors and chartered surveyors will identify any property defects and their apparent cause. Any urgent or necessary repairs and their costs will be detailed in their building survey report.

Structural survey

Level 3 Survey

Known as a Level 3 survey – is designed to look specifically at the structural integrity of a property, and can be carried out by a structural engineer.

Major concerns and further investigation

Structural surveys are intended to address major concerns, and/or carry out a further investigation in more detail, according to building type, age, the property’s condition and structural integrity.

The services of a RICS regulated structural engineer will also be called upon to provide a specific type of structural survey report, where necessary.

Structural Surveys Provide In Depth Information and Detail

Comprehensive structural surveys provide significantly more in depth information and detail about a property’s structure and building condition, giving you the power to:

Make an informed decision

Whether for the purposes of a mortgage lender when buying imminently, or planning a restoration or refurbishment. Both a first time buyer and current homeowner are better able to make an informed decision.

Avoid greater costs

Uncovering and repairing a structural issue at the outset is always advised as a prudent action to take. It aims to avoid the potential serious risk of an advanced structural failure, and the greater costs involved in large scale repairs.

Structural Survey Types

There are a number of different structural surveys that structural engineers can undertake in addition to the standard house survey process.

Structural engineers will complete a house report based upon a structural survey type, such as:

Specific Defect Survey

A detailed inspection which could be undertaken as a last minute survey. If you have a concern about an aspect of a property’s structure but believe the rest of the property is sound.

It can save you time when you quickly need more information. Typical areas of focus could be assessing for load-bearing walls, or whether support beams are required when removing a chimney breast.

Uses of a Specific Defect Survey

About to purchase a house

Structural inspection enables detailed information to be collected on the extent and costs of fixing the issue. It will help you decide on whether to proceed with the purchase or negotiate successfully for a lower valuation and price.

Satisfy the mortgage lender

Structural report covering a specific defect is requested before proceeding with the mortgage application process.

Planning a house renovation

Structural engineers can carry out a structural survey to determine the suitability of the property for renovations before any building works commence, and offer expert advice.

Getting a second opinion

Your surveyor recommends further investigation by a structural engineer.

Subsidence & Movement Survey

The risk of subsidence and movement may be indicated on a homebuyer report or building surveyor report.

A structural engineer will be able to undertake a more in depth investigation to confirm normal property movement or the presence, extent and cause of a serious subsidence.

First signs

First signs of subsidence are sticking doors and windows, and visible cracks in a particular area of the house, which may need to be measured and monitored for between 12 – 24 months.

Common reasons

Its estimated that nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of all subsidence cases are caused by tree roots drawing moisture out of the soil. Another common reason is soil beneath a property is being washed away by leaking drains or water mains.

Building Failure

Loss of load-bearing capacity

A structural failure typically occurs when a load bearing component of a building is unable to support and transfer loads to another structural element.

Loss of load-carrying capacity is brought about by ‘stressing’ the component material to its strength limit, resulting in fracture or excessive deformity.

Highly accurate laser survey

Structural engineers carry out laser surveys which scan the external facade of a building. Highly accurate details of wall surface distortions are obtained to precisely map signs, such as leaning and bowing, cracking and building movement.

Other causes

The other main causes for building failure are:

  • Design errors

  • Faulty construction

  • Substandard materials

  • Foundation failure

  • Abnormal loading

Inspection of a potentially at-risk building at short notice is not unusual. It provides a quick but reliable assessment to determine whether further detailed investigation is required, and the extent of necessary repairs and renovation.

Dimension Surveys

Dimensional control surveying is the accurate measurement of 3-dimensional spaces.  The area between each point is precisely determined to create digitally mapped distances and angles.

Typical applications

Are for proposed renovations where it is required to know an existing structural framework will provide sufficient room to take the proposed refurbishment, prior to rebuilding.

Accurate CAD floor plans

Structural engineers will record all structural and architectural elements of a building and convert data into accurate CAD building floor plans, elevations, section drawings and more.

3D Laser scanning has zero per cent chance of human error, and structural engineers can record all measurements in only one visit.

Building Investigation

What does a Building Investigations Survey cover?

A building investigation will often involve a close analysis of:

  • Cladding materials – detached from building surfaces,

  • Steel frames or members – corrosion, and extent of deterioration Corrosion in a building’s steelwork can build up powerful forces that will crack open the surfaces of a building.

  • Concrete structures – ageing and extent of degradation caused by carbonation, chloride (salt) entry, sulphates, etc. Among the most common defects is the current structural suitability of concrete, which can be increasingly affected by a polluted environment.

  • Timber member – ageing and extent of deterioration.

  • Thermal movement – extent and severity of material cracking,

  • Framing, floor or roof members – whether defective, under-designed or poorly detailed.

Load bearing capacity

One type of building investigation will focus on structural detail and load bearing capacity, including:

  • Non destructive, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) surveys of structural elements and objects buried below ground.
  • Plate bearing capacity of sub-base materials to determine ground bearing capacity of a slab.
  • Breakout of structural concrete elements.
  • Force of compression from concrete core.

Identify nature and cause of observed effects

Potential structural issues in a property can often occur in a variety of forms and combinations. Some less obvious than others. The task of the structural engineer is to identify the probable nature and causes of observed defects.

A strategy will be recommended for the monitoring or repair of the building, and the likelihood for further future inspections.

Mortgage Valuation Survey

It’s important to be aware of the difference between a mortgage valuation and a mortgage valuation survey.

Mortgage valuation

Determines the value of a property (as security) for the benefit of the mortgage provider – not the house buyer – before any acceptance on lending the mortgage amount may be approved.

This type of valuation does not reveal the true condition of the property or uncover hidden issues. It is not a detailed accurate analysis and will not highlight costly defects, potential faults or assess its structural integrity.

The valuation is very limited in its scope, and the information provided cannot be solely relied upon for in depth knowledge of its structural condition and integrity.

Mortgage valuation survey

Detailed and thorough assessment of a property’s condition.

A specific property survey report is completed by a chartered engineer. Each and every property defect item will be itemised, and where possible, appropriate repairs and anticipated costs evaluated.

The survey report on a residential property which supports a mortgage application can often be requested just days before the exchange.

Speak to a Structural Engineer Today

We’re on hand to provide structural surveys in London. Get in touch to discuss your requirements and we’ll be happy to help.

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